For the artist the problem is always “What is the story?” By artist I mean any creative person. Mind organises information, and it comes out of the peripherals as poetry, drama, painting, sculpture, a letter, a blog even. But the problem remains. To put it slightly differently, “What are you trying to say?” It is the problem Graves engages in his poem In Broken Images – “He in a new confusion of his understanding: I in a new understanding of my confusion.”
Those of us who are addicted to House know the problem well. The mechanical base of House, of each one-hour programme, goes like this: somebody falls (complicatedly) ill; through a series of attempts to come up with a correct diagnosis (which necessarily involve getting it wrong several times along the way), the problem is finally solved through House’s genius, not so much by a Sherlock Holmes ruthlessly logical linear sequence, as by an apercu, a sudden AHA experience. For instance, House may see a ladybird, and the spots on the ladybird may suddenly tell him that the spots on the patient are the crucial issue, QED. But of course this is not the story, which is really about House’s complex, contradictory and exasperating personality, his relationship with his best friend and his would-be lover Cutty, with his personally complex medical team, and his patients (who are allowed, perhaps, just one fold of complexity). The most stunning episodes. (the trip to the funeral, for instance, which is as rich as a whole film like About Schmidt, partly because it has episodes of familiarisation behind it) are about social interaction rather than medical complexity, which is a necessary scaffolding, but beyond the knowledge and understanding of most viewers The pleasure of House is to see real intelligence in writing plotting and performance survive, at best even ignore, the strictures of commercial television, just as the greatest Elizabethan and Jacobean drama bursts through the strait-jacket of the Revenge Play and becomes something else. The would-be restrictive framework is not the story.
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